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News from the Votemaster

Supreme Court Strikes Down Part of the Arizona Immigration Law

Yesterday the Supreme Court said that several parts of a controversial immigration law passed by the state of Arizona were unconstitutional but one part was probably OK. The court said that Arizona could not make it a misdemeanor for illegal aliens to be in the state or apply for a job. It didn't immediately outlaw the provision that police officers who stopped someone for reasons other than immigration law violations must check on that person's immigration status if there was any doubt about it. But the Court also didn't preclude revisiting this issue when the law is fully implemented. The decision was 5-3 with Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself since she had been involved in the case as Solicitor General before joining the Court.

President Obama mostly praised the verdict since the federal government had sued Arizona to overturn the law. Mitt Romney was tied in knots over the decision. On the one hand, his base is completely against illegal immigration and even more against any path for illegal immigrants to become citizens (such as the DREAM act). On the other hand, if he were to adopt this position, he knows it would drive the Latino community into the arms of the Democrats for years to come. There is no position he can take that is consistent with winning the election. He will try to refuse even point-blank questions about the law and the decision for as long as he can. For evidence, see this interview his spokesman gave after the decision. The spokesman was repeatedly asked for Romney's position directly and he simply refused to answer the question, no matter how hard the interviewer pushed. While Romney may think this is a satisfactory answer, it is likely that many Latino voters will not see it that way. In practical terms, Romney's refusal to comdemn the law may hurt him in Arizona, where his lead is only 3% and the size of the Latino population in the state is appreciably larger than the size of the Mormon population there.

Also unfortunate for Romney is that the Court's decision on the ACA won't come until Thursday, letting this story dominate the news for 3 days. While it will be pushed off the front pages Thursday, the damage with Latino voters will already have been done and will not be undone easily. Recent polls show Romney getting 25% of the Latino vote nationwide. Observers believe that he needs the 40% that George W. Bush got in order to win states like Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Virginia. The politics surrounding this issue are not going to make that any easier.

Supreme Court Says States May Not Ban Corporate Money from Campaigns

But the news yesterday for Romey was not all bad. In a 5-4 decision, the Court said that Montana's century-old law barring corporations from donating to political campaigns violates the constitution. In effect, it extended its Citizens United ruling to the states as well as the federal goverment. Despite the tens of millions of dollars third parties have spent on attack ads this year, the Court sees no problems here. In effect, if a corporation gives a donation to a candidate who then promises to lower corporate taxes, it is bribery and a felony. But if the corporation gives the money to a candidate known to hold that position without extracting an explicit promise to vote for lower corporate taxes, it is free speech. It is a very fine line. So far this year, nearly all the big money has favored the Republicans, although most of it has come from individual billionaires rather than corporations.

The Democrats have introduced a bill called the DISCLOSE act to try to limit corporate political expenditures by forcing corporations to get approval from the stockholders before spending corporate funds on campaigns (which makes this an issue of corporate governance rather than free speech), but the bill has no chance since the Republicans are uniformly opposed to it. If most of the money had been flowing to the Democrats, they might have come down on the other side of the fence.

This decision has even spurred some talk about amending the constitution to bar big money in campaigns, but enactment of such an amendment seems unlikely, even though huge majorities of the public are against corporations getting involved in campaigns.

Primaries Today in Five States

While the last presidential primary today (in Utah) is not exactly a cliff hanger, there are other primaries that are important. For one, New York Republicans will choose who they want to run against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) although no matter who wins the primary, it will be a tough fight against the popular Gillibrand. Also, there are competitive elections in several New York congressional districts, most notably in NY-13, where 82-year-old Charlie Rangel is facing a serious challenge from Adriano Espaillat, a state senator. Rangel was recently censured by the House ethics committee, but still remains popular in his district.

Competitive races are also expected in CO-05, where Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) is facing a wealthy banker, Robert Blaha, in OK-02, which is an open seat, and in SC-07, which is a new district.

Today's Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Michigan 40% 40%   Jun 14 Jun 15 Denno Research
New Hampshire 51% 43%   Jun 21 Jun 24 ArkansasG
Utah 26% 68%   Jun 15 Jun 21 Dan Jones

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Utah Scott Howell 29% Orrin Hatch 63%     Jun 15 Jun 21 Dan Jones